Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Power to the People

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
– Frederick Douglass

On September 8th, the world will observe International Literacy Day, an annual reminder of the importance of literacy and global learning created by UNESCO in 1965. It’s an annual event to raise awareness about the role that literacy plays in our local and global communities.

Literacy is something that most of us don’t really think much about; reading and writing are second nature to many people, particularly those in developed countries. It’s easy to forget, then, that there are many, many people in the world who remain illiterate, in both developed and in undeveloped countries. According to UNESCO, there are a billion illiterate adults around the world — that’s over 25% of the world’s adult population —and two-thirds of them are women. Over 72 million children worldwide don’t attend school, and millions more children drop out of education each year. Those are staggering statistics.

The concept of “literacy” is defined differently by different groups. Traditionally, “literacy” has meant the ability to read and write. UNESCO has defined literacy as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.” Economists consider literacy rates as a way to measure a region’s human capital: literate people have higher socioeconomic status, are less expensive to train than illiterate people, and experience better employment opportunities and general health. As the concept of literacy expands each decade, the gap between literate and illiterate societies widens was well. What, ultimately, is the cost in both financial and human terms to those left behind?

The theme of this year’s International Literacy Day is “Literacy and Empowerment,” which made me think of the quote by Frederick Douglass shown at the beginning of this column. There are many stories of people trapped by their illiteracy — check our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week for links to their stories as well as literacy resources — as well as news accounts of girls and women in various world regions who are deliberately kept illiterate (and thus powerless) by extremist regimes.

The ability to read and write fluently, to comprehend information in various formats and contexts, and exhibit problem-solving skills all empower people, kids and adults alike. Literacy helps to dissolve barriers and unlock doors to greater learning and increased critical thinking skills. My picks this week all focus on literacy resources for K-12 and remedial students – I hope you enjoy them and find them useful. It’s also my hope, however, that as educators, you take the time to celebrate the joys of literacy, and the freedoms it bestows, with your students. Millions of others aren’t so lucky.

Knowledge Loom
Subjects: English, Language Arts, Literacy
Grade: K-12
The Knowledge Loom is an online teaching and learning community that offers monthly theme-based collections of promising educational practices. Topics typically include literacy and math instruction, equity, education technology, school organization, community involvement, and others. The Knowledge Loom is produced by The Education Alliance at Brown University, which develops educational products and services for school administrators, policymakers, teachers, and parents in New England, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

21st Century Literacies
Subjects: English, Language Arts, Literacy
Grade: K-12
This Web project investigates how we read and understand the world around us. The site offers resources in basic language literacy, as well as visual, spatial, historical, cultural, information, scientific, media, political, and math literacies. This site is produced by NoodleTools, an educational software company that offers bibliographic and other research tools.

Girls Read: Online Literature Circles
Subjects: English, Language Arts, Literacy
Grade: 6-8
In this lesson, girls develop skills in reading, analysis, and written expression as they share their thoughts about literature with e-mail pen pals and in classroom literature circles. They also explore a larger literacy community when they visit and contribute to a website devoted to adolescent literature. This lesson is offered by ReadWriteThink, a reviewed site that presents free resources in reading and language arts instruction. The lesson is aligned to NCTE/IRA content standards.

~Joann's Picks - 9/3/2010~

1 comment:

  1. My students are always surprised to learn that there are so many adults in the world who are illiterate. It is something that we shouldn't take for granted and we should teach our students to cherish. Thanks for the great lessons to do just that.


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